On October 26th, 2013 I made my return to the world of triathlon with my participation in the Beach 2 Battleship in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Since opening the business and moving back to St Michaels, it had just been too hectic to try and do an event and the B2B was a perfect time of year to get back to it. A piece of advice to all…. When you leave the sport for a while, you’re pretty much a rookie again and are, therefore, apt to make rookie mistakes. And that’s where our tale starts
On Thursday, Oct 24th I should have been travelling down to North Carolina and checking in to my hotel. Instead, I found myself out at a function for my other job eating a steak and potato as my “carb-up” meal. All in all, it was a bad call. Two nights before a race is one of the most important times for fueling as it really primes the body to take in as much fuel as possible. This function would go a little later than excepted and I didn’t get back to St Michaels until 1030pm, and I still hadn’t packed the bike and race essentials!! At midnight I decided it was time to shut my eyes, with an alarm set for 4 am. That’s right… 4 hours sleep two days before the race. NOT SMART.
We left Friday morning, you know the day of race check in and packet pickup and mandatory meetings, at 5am. So I knew I screwed up my nutrition the night before and thought about what I would need to do that day to clean it up. Apparently I took that idea and reversed it. Over the course of the 7 hour drive (!!!!!) with Laura and our 4 year old and 19 month old (!!!!) I ate a Boston Crème Donut, 3 pancakes and 5 McDonalds mighty wings. Holy crap I’m dumb.
We got to the Wilmington Convention Center in just enough time for me to jump out of the car and run inside to pick up my race number and slip in to the mandatory 2pm meeting. The meeting lasted an hour and at least I was smart enough to sit on the floor and stretch during. As soon as it was done I had to get my T1 bag ready and drop it off while Laura was getting the hotel room. I saw some friends at the expo and decided that we would all meet at their place at 6pm for food. I called Laura up and we drove right to bike racking to put the bike together and finish the last preparation. After all the racking was done we swung by the grocery store to pick up some bread and salad for our pasta meal with our friends at 6 and waited. We also had to swing by a WINGS store to buy cheap sweatpants and a cheap sweatshirt. Apparently, with the race being point to point, you wear clothes to the T1 in the morning and to the swim start, and then you discard those clothes. You cannot leave anything in T1 and you MUST have clothes in the morning since it is only about 40 degrees. Sure would have been nice to know that…..
6pm comes and goes. 6:15. 6:30. No friends at their house. Got a message that they had left to go and rack their bikes. 6:45. At 6:50 I’m physically shaking from lack of food and decide that we are just going to run to the market again. My food of choice? Not thinking straight, I choose Sushi from Harris Teeter. That’s right, supermarket Sushi. Not pasta, not bread for PB and J. Sushi…… dumbass.
At least I’ll get a good night’s sleep because I’m going to bed at 8pm….. but no one tells the wedding party in the next room that I have a big race the next day so we get to hear them partying till about 2am.
5am. Shit. 3 hours of crap sleep. Crap nutrition. CRAP CRAP CRAP. Well at least it’s only a 3 mile walk from the hotel to T1, since there is not shuttle from the hotel. 3 miles with a full gallon of Hammer HEED in my bag so I’ve got some kind of nutrition. I’m chomping on a bagel when I go down to the lobby to verify that there is not shuttle and this is when I meet a guardian angel. A guy, Rob, is doing the full, and his Dad is driving him down to transition. He overhears me ask about a shuttle and offers to give me a ride. Thank goodness for his kindness because it’s not till I walk outside that I realize that it MIGHT be 40 degrees.
We’re dropped off at T1 and get the bike prepped. I’m actually feeling ok at this point and after making the obligatory Port-a-John stop, decide that it will be warmer to put on my TYR Cat 5 fullsuit, under my sweats. THAT was actually a good idea and it kept the chill off somewhat. I meet up with my friends, Scott and Olga, and we chat until it is time to get on the shuttles to the swim start. Oh crap. If I wear my shoes there, then I’ll have to discard them. So I do the only thing I can think of, I go barefoot. COLD COLD COLD.
As soon as we get off the bus, I find that I have 5 minutes before my swim wave start! What the hell was I thinking waiting so long. And why do I have to pee so bad?!? It’s ok, I’ll pee in the suit, I say to myself as I find myself standing in line for the port a john again. 3 minutes to go!! Holy crap!! WHAT AM I DOING?!? Rookie mistakes.
I’m able to get in the water with about 60 seconds to spare and the water feels great. I actually had one of the best swims I ever had. I couldn’t tell you the official swim time because when you get out of the water, you run almost 200 yards before you get to the T1 mat. All I can say is that the suit was great, the water felt fine and I was flying! I would draft behind another swimmer for 2 minutes, and then make the determination if I was faster than he was or not. If I was, I passed him and found another swimmer to draft. By doing this, I rarely had to sight. All I had to do was find the next bunch of bubbles in front of me to get behind. Great great GREAT swim.
We get out of the water via a ladder and a guy starts yelling at me to sit down on a bench. I do and he smiles. “Hold on”, he says and WOOSH, my wetsuit is off and in my hands. WOW. That was great. Another 300 yards or so and I’m in T1. That transition was FAST. I mean like 15thoverall fast. Wetsuit off, socks on, shoes on, helmet on… GO GO GO. I knew it was going to be cold so I had rolled up arm warmers and put them on the ends of the aero bars. I don’t even bother with them for now, but make sure they are on the bike for later.
The first mile of the ride is a blur. It is a lot of sharp turns to get you out of the area and on the main roads. I’m rolling by guys who are having a hard time getting their legs going and it feels great. I make myself wait 20 minutes until I eat a gel or drink anything, to let my stomach settle to the vertical position (since it was horizontal during the swim). I look at my Garmin computer and it’s saying exactly what I want. I’ve only got it set for distance, time and heart rate. No speed anywhere. I don’t care about speed. I’m just focused on my body’s effort. It takes a brief moment to get the HR under control but I lock in to my 150 BPM and go! I’m feeling good. Eating a gel, sipping on Heed, and rolling up my arm warmers to keep warm. Everything is going great through the first aid station and then it hits… the burping.
Burping is pretty much your body telling you that it has stuff in your stomach and that it isn’t digesting it. That, for a long distance athlete, is BAD. I try to slow my HR down a bit to absorb some of the nutrients I’m putting in, and drinking a lot of straight water, but I can’t stop burping. I know what’s happening and I can’t stop it. And now, at about mile 50, I come to another problem. All the water is getting absorbed and I’ve got to PEE!!! I’ve never been an advocate of peeing on the bike, and I’ve never tried it, but a race is a great time to try something new…..right? RIGHT? Crap.
I’m able to pee a little by not pedaling on my way in to the city and I feel a little better. I’m able to do an awesome dismount from my bike in front of tons of people and I’m feeling pumped. I hand my bike off and run to T2 to get my bag and get changed. I run in to the change tent and am very happy to see that I threw an extra pair of socks in to my T2 bag. Why am I so happy? Remember what I just did on the bike about 6 miles earlier? Don’t want to run in pee socks.
Another fast transition and I’m off. Feeling good. Me and two other guys are running together for the first 3 miles and laughing and joking. 8 min pace without an effort. This is going to be great!! And then the first hill hits. Slows me down a bit. I power through and keep on running. Mile 4 hits. VOMIT. Oh My God!!! If burping is bad, vomit is horrible. (A friend once told me that vomit was your body rejecting death. That is NOT a comforting thought right now). Probably one of the worst runs I’ve ever done. All I could do was run until I couldn’t move anymore, and then walk until my heart rate got to 130 bpm to try and absorb something. As soon as it got there, I’d walk for another minute and then run until I cramped again. I tried everything at every aid station. Coke, Endurolytes, Heed, Water, Pretzels, Gels, etc. A LOT of water, just trying to wash it all down. Everything I was doing was wrong, but I was in panic mode. I know that now. I tried to forget about the race and enjoy the scenery a bit. That seemed to help…. Until we got out of the park. Then we were back in an industrial area and I knew we were heading back in to town. Run…. Cramp…. Walk…. Repeat…
With one mile left I told my body it was going to run, no matter what and that’s what I did. Running and cramping but I was going to try and look good getting over the finish line. As soon as I made that last turn and saw all those people cheering, I was energized. And then I saw Laura, Natalie and Ben!! That really had me going and Ben’s magical high-five at the end gave me the last little surge that I needed. I saw the race clock was still under 6 hours and I was able to clear the line with just a bit of spare change.
Next year (that’s right, I’ll be back to do the half again next year to redeem myself) I’ll be heading down a full day earlier. Good sleep for two nights is important but more important is not being rushed and being able to get good, solid nutrition in two days out from the race, up to race morning.
The nutrition plan will obviously change as well. Who knows, I may even focus on eating carbs instead of fast food crap and super market sushi. Lol
I will try new things BEFORE implementing them in a race. Let’s see, I had no plan on how to get to the race start, I had my wetsuit stripped off from me after wearing it on only one other swim (2 days before the race), I tried to put arm warmers on while riding, I tried to pee on the bike, I tried to eat everything I could get my hand on at aid stations. And I’m sure there is more that I am forgetting.
Things I will continue to do are focus on heart rate while riding and running. I am planning on implementing the MAF, or maximum aerobic function, concept in to my running. You can find the information through a Google search or by looking for the creator, Dr Maffetone. The training is long and slow but it basically makes you run like a diesel engine, burning fuel slowly all day long. We’ll give it a try.
I’m taking just a few days off and then I’m just going to keep running and riding from the shop on weekends, with some other runs/rides/swims mixed in during the week. The most important thing to realize during this race was that I wasn’t in it for a time, or to win, or to beat anyone. I’m doing it because it’s a celebration. A celebration of fitness and it’s just a huge party with me and all of my friends getting together and doing things all year long, trying to be healthy. It wouldn’t matter if I never raced again, or if I came in dead last. If you’re worried about your time and that’s all you focus on, you’re missing the big picture. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your fitness. Do what you can, because you can and enjoy every minute of every day. Live in the now and you will never spend a moment wondering what could have been.
Until we meet on the road…..